Leading for Kids: Randall Mosley, Amistad Reading and Music Project

When Randall Mosley was a child growing up on Beatrice Street in far southwest Detroit, he was slow in learning to read. But education was important to his mother. She had been admitted to college when she finished high school but never got to go because her family could not afford it. She wanted more for her son. She worked intensively with Randall when he was seven and eight years old. She insisted he spend 20 minutes a day reading Reader’s Digest. Gradually, Randall improved his reading skills. He eventually went to Cass Tech High School, then Michigan State University. He earned a master’s degree in technical management from Eastern Michigan University and a certificate in instructional design from Wayne State University. He worked as a technical writer for Ford Motor Company, and as a middle school teacher in Ann Arbor. He married and had two sons. On the side, he cultivated his love of music, especially jazz. 

Randall Mosley

Randall Mosley

Now, more than 50 years after he struggled with reading in grade school, Randall is back living in the house where he grew up. On Tuesdays and Thursdays he leads the Amistad Reading and Music Project, located in the church down the street from his house, helping today’s grade-schoolers improve their reading and cultivate a love of learning.

“I’d had some blessings,” Randall explains, thinking particularly of his sons, now young adults. “You have to give back something... The children of the community need me."

Amistad conducts an assessment of students’ reading level about 30 days into the fall each year. What they have found confirms that Amistad is doing something important in the neighborhood. “In five years, only three kids came in reading at grade level,” says Randall. During its first year of operation in 2011, Amistad helped improve students’ reading speed by a median level of 42 percent over the fall scores.

While holding steady at an average size of 16 participants, Amistad innovated in its design. In 2012, Amistad began incorporating music into its approach. Randall, who helps to manage the famous Baker’s Keyboard Lounge jazz club, began bringing Amistad youth to Baker’s Kids-n-Jazz program, where they see bands play. And, trained musicians have joined the Amistad team to lead vocal and instrumental instruction. 

Adding music allowed for performances that attracted parents and grandparents to get more involved in the program. And if a youth got really good at playing an instrument, it might help him or her win a college scholarship. It’s an important service for the children, as nearly all Detroit schools have dropped their art and music programs.

Randall feels rewarded by helping others, but also just by being around the youth, saying kids are easy to be around because “they generally see the glass half full.”


AR GNI Strengthening Grassroots Leadership

This blog is excerpted from Strengthening Grassroots Community Leadership in Detroit, an Evaluation Report on the Community Connections Grants Program, 2006-2015, produced by David Scheie, Touchstone Center for Collaborative Inquiry. The Amistad Reading and Music Project receives funding through the Skillman-supported Community Connections small grant program and is included in the report as a case study. Download the full report

Strengthening Grassroots Community Leadership in Detroit is a product of the Skillman Foundation's Kids Matter Here: An Analytic Review of the 10-year Good Neighborhoods Initiative.


The Amistad, under the leadership of Randall Mosley is one of Community Connections flagship projects. There is a proven connection music education and learning and thus literacy. The Amistad program puts the research and best practices into action!

Amistad's commitment in an area of the city with few resources for youth is a necessary, worthwhile and fruitful investment. Mr. Mosely's ability to mobilize youth, parents, volunteers and supporters is impressive beyond words. He is a standout among community leaders. We are pleased to have him in our family of grantee leaders.

Lisa Leverette
10/19/2016 at 12:16 pm

Amistad Program
I have witnessed the Amistad program in action. This is a phenomenal outreach activity for the children, especially this in Southwest Detroit. Please continue this important work to educate the youth. We are so proud of your work Randall Mosley.

Cherie McMillian
10/19/2016 at 11:20 am